News Flash – 21 September 2017

National News



Mumbai receives second heaviest September rain in over a century

A BEST bus stranded in the Malad subway on Tuesday night.



MUMBAI: The city experienced yet another intense downpour, the second time this season, receiving almost as much rain over Tuesday and Wednesday as it usually does in an entire month. Data from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) indicated that over 24 hours starting 8.30am on September 19, Mumbai recorded about 304 mm of rainfall, just shy of the 312mm average set for the entire month of September—which means it rained in one day almost as much as it usually does over a month. The sudden force of this spell was apparent from the fact that it was the second wettest September day in IMD’s over 100-year recorded history. “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC) has said that owing to climate change we’ll keep seeing such heavy rain over short intervals,” said Prof Kapil Gupta of IIT, referring to the extreme nature of the phenomenon. The impact was mostly felt in the western suburbs like Andheri, Borivli, Dahisar, Dindoshi, where many streets were under water, especially those adjoining subways connecting eastern and western parts. Amruta Deshpande of Thakur village in Kandivli (E) described the situation as chaotic.


But rail and road transport were unaffected as traffic was thin owing to the government’s proactive decision to shut down schools and colleges. The continuing spell of heavy downpour accompanied by gusty winds caused waterlogging in unexpected localities on Wednesday. Not just the usual low-lying areas of Khar and Kalina, even parts of western suburbs such as Dahisar, Marol and Bandra that rarely report waterlogging were submerged in knee-deep waters. Considering that few Mumbaikar’s ventured out, the BMC was able to clear the flooded stretches faster. It deployed around 35,000 staffers on the streets to tackle the situation. Waterlogging was reported on Andheri-Kurla Road below Airport Road metro station at Marol, S V Road in Khar, and Nutan Nagar, St Paul’s Road and St Francis Road in Bandra. A BMC official from Malad blamed “high intensity” rain for waterlogging in these parts.



For kids’ safety, Delhi government wants CCTVs in all city schools



NEW DELHI: To the relief of many parents concerned about the safety of children in schools, Delhi government wants installation of CCTVs in all Delhi schools, both government and private. A blueprint to fast track this measure is being prepared. The matter was reviewed at a special cabinet meeting chaired by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday. The meeting on Wednesday, held a day after Kejriwal’s return from a nine-day meditation course, also reviewed other flagship programmes. While focused on the safety of schoolchildren, the CM discussed education programmes, mohalla clinics, medicine counters at government hospitals as well as water and development in unauthorized colonies, pension and issues related to the ration disbursal system. Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, who is also the education minister, informed the CM about the plan to install CCTV cameras in all schools. He said other steps were also being taken to ensure the safety of children in schools. Kejriwal asked the education department to study the New Delhi Municipal Council model, because, he said, “all stakeholders, including parents, have expressed satisfaction at the CCTVs in these schools”. Besides CCTV vigil, smartcards are used in NDMC institutions to mark the entry and exit of students, with the parents getting alerts on their phones to show the time when the student reached and left the school. The high number of students who are not doing well in studies and are forced to study through correspondence needed government help, Kejriwal added.


The meeting decided that the government would strictly prevent liquor vends from operating near schools. Even if they fall outside the stipulated boundaries but are seen to be adversely impacting any school, they would be shut down. The CM also reviewed the progress of mohalla clinics in government schools and asked officials to fast-track their next phase. Taking stock of the work of existing clinics, he directed the health department to keep track of complaints/shortcomings if any and resolve these by the end of the month. The CM directed that tests at these clinics should start at the earliest and any shortage of doctors quickly resolved. Similarly, he asked the chief secretary to remove all hurdles in the way of filling the vacancies in government hospitals. He was also keen that the health department put up more counters for free medicines at hospitals to ease the rush. While reviewing the progress of development projects in unauthorized colonies, Kejriwal wanted the finance department to make sure that the nodal departments of DSIIDC and irrigation & flood control faced no financial hurdles. He also asked for the list of all social schemes, including pensions and the ration disbursal system, to assess their implementation. A statement from the CM’s office later said that the ministers presented included Sisodia, Satyendar Jain, Gopal Rai, Rajendar Pal Gautam, Imran Hussain and Kailash Gahlot.



Mumbai: Rain, stranded plane affect over 160 flights



MUMBAI: A total of 161 flight arrivals and departures were cancelled at Mumbai airport on Wednesday, when inclement weather affected flight operations for the second day in a row. Another six planes were forced to do go-arounds, one to divert and several were delayed by up to 2 hours. It was at 9.38 pm, almost 24 hours after it overshot the main runway on Tuesday and got stuck in mud, that the stranded SpiceJet Boeing 737-900 aircraft could be removed. The plane had landed around 10pm on Tuesday in heavy rain and strong winds. Hours before the aircraft was removed, Mumbai’s air traffic control (ATC) had announced the main runway’s closure till 6am on Thursday. At the time of going to press, the runway closure notice was not yet cancelled. ATC sources said the main runway may remain shut for some time because of the damage to areas immediately beyond the runway end where the aircraft’s wheels sunk. Though an ATC official said the runway cannot be used till its end safety area is graded back and leveled to comply with safety requirements, an airport official said the main runway was to be opened in a few hours. The SpiceJet overrun has exposed how ill-prepared airlines and airports are to handle such emergencies. The incident had a cascading effect across the country as hundreds of passengers were left stranded not only in Mumbai, but also in Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Hyderabad. A common grouse among passengers was lack of information on flight status. Airline call centres were difficult to get through. Airlines and passengers took to social media to share information. Passengers whose flights managed to land in Mumbai were left waiting for their luggage for hours. Till 5pm on Wednesday, Jet Airways had taken the worst beating, with 63 flight cancellations, followed by IndiGo (8), SpiceJet (3), Air India (2) and GoAir (1). Trouble began in the early hours of Wednesday, with strong, gusting tailwinds whipping the operational, shorter secondary runway.


Even as narrow-body aircraft landed onto the wet runway, the big birds were diverted to the safer runways of Hyderabad and Bengaluru. The worst-hit were passengers onboard wide-bodied aircraft (of both Indian and foreign airlines) scheduled for early Wednesday arrivals to Mumbai after long-haul flights from Europe and the US. Among the hundreds of Mumbai-bound passengers stranded across airports were a team of six doctors from Mumbai who were returning to the city after attending a conference in Vancouver. “We had dinner at 10.30pm on Tuesday night. After that, till now (6pm, Wednesday) we have had no meals, not even a single cup of tea,” said Dr Hasmukh Ravat, a senior intervention cardiologist who works at Fortis Hospital. “We understand it’s (almost like) a natural calamity and there are major disruptions. But we were appalled by the callous attitude of our airline’s staff.” He and his team had left for Calgary airport on Monday morning. Their Jet Airways flight was overhead Mumbai around Tuesday midnight when it was diverted to Hyderabad. Dr Sangeeta Ravat, HOD, neurology, KEM, said, “After it landed in Hyderabad around 1am, we had to sit inside the aircraft till 6.30am. Worse, after we disembarked, there was no update on flight status for hours on end”. With no news from the airline, some in the group booked a TruJet Hyderabad-Pune flight for Rs 84,000 per ticket. “Even as we were checking in, we learnt that the Jet flight was to depart for Mumbai. So we cancelled the new ticket, collected our bags and again checked them in onto Jet,” said another doctor in the team. They finally landed in Mumbai around 4.30pm, but their ordeal was far from over as there was no news of their luggage. They were then stranded at Mumbai airport for over two hours. Jet Airways said its “teams are working round-the-clock to ensure that inconvenience to guests is minimised and operations are normalised at the earliest”.



Deadly pits: Potholes claimed 11,386 lives during 2013-16


BENGALRU: Pothole-ridden roads have claimed 11,386 lives across the country over the past four years, which translates into roughly seven deaths a day. The data compiled by the ministry of road transport and highways shows Uttar Pradesh recorded the maximum pothole deaths (3,428), followed by Maharashtra(1,410), Madhya Pradesh (1,244), West Bengal (783), Bihar (659), Gujarat (597), Andhra Pradesh (497), Tamil Nadu (481), Rajasthan (440) and Punjab (367). The actual figures could be grimmer, since many cases go unreported, sources said. The number of pothole related fatalities in India increased from 2,607 in 2013 to 3,039 in 2014 and 3,416 in 2015. The figure dipped to 2,324 in 2016. A senior official in the ministry of road transport and highways said: “Some states recorded more deaths due to various reasons such as road length, vehicular population and rate of rainfall. Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Karnataka and West Bengal account for about 43% of the total road length of the country”.


Many states don’t classify causes of accidents in a scientific way, hence several cases are not reported, he added. V S Suresh, an advocate from the Madras high court who handles motor vehicle accident cases, said government agencies are liable to pay compensation to the victims in cases of accidents caused by potholes. “Craters are mainly formed due to the inferior quality of construction material and poor maintenance but police rarely record such cases as pothole-related accidents,” he said. Advait Jani, who works with the Institute for Transport Development and Policy (ITDP), a non-profit, says poor quality of work and waterlogging reduces the lifespan of roads. “Civic agencies should ensure an efficient drainage system and a proper gradient so that water doesn’t stagnate on streets. Repeated digging and faulty construction also damage roads quickly”.



Kolkata: Mystery-fever death sparks Salt Lake dengue scare



KOLKATA: The death of a 36-year-old Salt Lake resident from a mysterious fever on Tuesday has triggered a dengue scare among the residents of EE Block where around 25 people are already being treated for dengue or dengue-like symptoms. Victim Milan Banerjee was suffering from fever since last Saturday. He was admitted to Columbia Asia Hospital early on Monday. Banerjee, a contractor, was declared dead on Tuesday evening. According to the death certificate, Banerjee’s cause of death was an acute viral fever with thrombocytopenia (platelet loss) and adrenal crisis leading to shock syndrome and multi-organ dysfunction. The certificate mentioned ‘pan hypopituitarism’ as the antecedent cause. Even though the cause of death does not mention dengue, the dengue NS1 Elisa test taken last Sunday at a private diagnostic centre tested positive and the platelet count was also found to be below normal. Arindam Banerjee, MD of Columbia Asia Hospital, said the patient had several co-morbid conditions that led to the rapid decline of his health. “Since NS1 is not confirmatory for dengue, we had also sent his sample for IGG and IGM to find out whether it was a confirmed case of dengue,” he said. “What will my daughter do now? My grandson is only about three and he is yet to fully understand that his father is no more,” said Banerjee’s father-in-law Banabihari Chatterjee.


Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation workers on Wednesday visited Banerjee’s building with fogging machines. Local residents, however, alleged that this was just an eyewash. “Is it not ridiculous to do this after someone has already died from dengue? The civic authorities have taken no dengue control measures till date in this block and now that Banerjee has passed away they are fogging the area. Many people in this locality are suffering from dengue,” said a resident of the same apartment. Anena Majumder, a 20-year-old student of Presidency University, who lives in the building opposite the Banerjees’, has been affected by dengue and was taken to hospital on Wednesday morning. “The fogging at this spot today is just an eyewash. There has been no initiative from the civic authorities till date to prevent a dengue outbreak in the locality,” said S Majumder, the girl’s father. Local Trinamool councillor Sudhir Saha, who visited the Banerjees on Wednesday, claimed the civic authorities have been taking all necessary vector-control measures. Bidhannagar Municipal Corporation MMIC (health) Pranay Roy, however, said there was no mention of dengue in Banerjee’s death certificate and that anybody could test NS1 positive without having dengue due to other complications. “There are reports that several others in the locality have been affected by dengue as they have only tested positive in NS1. We sent our fogging team to the spot today itself and regular measures are being taken,” he said. Roy may visit EE Block on Thursday for a spot inspection.



To fog out mosquitoes, corporation gets smart, plans to go digital

The corporation said fogging is not a solution to the city’s vector menace.



CHENNAI: Greater Chennai Corporation is exploring the possibility of using mobile technology in its fight against mosquitoes after it successfully pilot-tested a smartphone application to gather data on larval density. The app, whose access will be limited to field workers and officers attached to the vector control and city health departments, will record larval density after the field worker conducts a dip test in a mosquito breeding site. Other parameters like photograph, temperature, time, coordinates will also be stored in the app’s database. “The plan is to have 15 field workers assess the primary water bodies — Adyar, Coovum and Kosasthalaiyar. Periodic assessment would provide us valuable data that will help us study the pattern, if any, with respect to disease prevalence and breeding,” said a corporation official. The project file requires approval from the special officer’s council, where it is pending, before it can be forwarded to the state government to seek funding. Sources estimated the project cost at a little over Rs 15 lakh. In June, TOI reported that the corporation was interested in setting up a Vector Control Monitoring System (VCMS), which officials said was the first-of-a-kind in the country, that would streamline data collection. VCMS would store the app’s data centrally for the civic body’s higher-ups to access and monitor. Till date, the corporation’s field workers record data in notebooks and submitted files to supervisors. According to sources, crucial historical data is often unavailable due to the corporation’s poor track record in file preservation.


But questions are being raised in corporation circles on whether the project will be worth the expenditure. “Authenticity of the data can be questioned. It may be difficult to determine whether the field worker visited the breeding site and if the photograph and density data are accurate,” a source said. However, health department officials were quick to downplay the concern. “Even if a field worker fudges the data, we will be able to find out,” an official said. “The reason is because the city’s water bodies traverse through different zones before emptying into the sea. Breeding sites are usually washed downstream. So if a field assistant upstream records breeding and the worker downstream doesn’t, then we will know that there is a gap in measurement,” the officer added. Civic body officials said once successfully set up, they will have an option to expand the scope of the project to track malaria and dengue cases. “There is greater awareness among public today about the need to get tested for dengue if fever persists. To that extent, our disease-fighting mechanism has improved. If we are able to record area-specific disease data, it will help us study the nature of vector movement with respect to location of breeding sites,” an official said.



International News



Hurricane Maria pummels Puerto Rico



SAN JUAN: Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Ricoon Wednesday, pummeling the US territory after already killing at least two people on its passage through the Caribbean. The US National Hurricane Centre warned of “large and destructive waves” as Maria came ashore near Yabucoa on the southeast coast. Puerto Rico‘s Governor Ricardo Rossello has told residents to brace for “the worst storm of the last century”, opening 500 shelters that can accommodate 67,000 people. “The wind sounds like a woman screaming at the top of her lungs!” photographer and storm chaser Mike Theiss posted on Twitter as the hurricane hit. “We are getting absolutely hammered right now”. Puerto Ricans had scrambled to board up windows and buy last minute supplies as the storm approached the densely populated island of 3.5 million. “Puerto Rico being hit hard by new monster Hurricane,” tweeted US President Donald Trump. “Be careful, our hearts are with you — will be there to help”. Maria made landfall as a Category Four storm on the five-point Saffir-Simpson scale, packing winds of 155 miles per hour. The US and British Virgin Islands — still struggling to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Irma — are also on alert, along with the Turks and Caicos Islands and parts of the Dominican Republic. Maria has already torn through several Caribbean islands, leaving two people dead in the French territory of Guadeloupe and causing major damage on the independent island of Dominica.


“I’m not denying I’m scared,” said Noemi Aviles Rivera, a 47-year-old schoolteacher in Puerto Rico who experienced Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and Georges in 1998. “I feel worried because it’s the first time I’ll see a hurricane of this magnitude”. Governor Rossello tweeted that more than 11,000 people had sought shelter already, with nearly 600 pets in tow. In the US Virgin Islands, locals reported horizontal rain and trees swirling in the wind. “Very violent and intense right now as we have just begun to experience hurricane force winds,” said 31-year-old Coral Megahy, hunkered down on the St Croix island. “We can hear debris banging on the aluminium windows as well”. In Guadeloupe, one person was killed by a falling tree as Maria hit, while another died on the seafront. At least two more are missing after their boat sank off the French territory, while some 40 per cent of households in the archipelago of 400,000 were without power. On neighbouring Dominica, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit posted on Facebook yesterday that there were initial reports of “widespread devastation”. Communications to the tropical island of 73,000 people have been cut, and its airports and ports have been closed.



Strong 6.1 earthquake off Japan’s east coast: USGS



TOKYO: A strong magnitude 6.1 quake hit off the east coast of Japan early Thursday but authorities did not issue a tsunami warning. It struck 281 kilometres (175 miles) east of the city of Kamaishi on Honshu, the largest Japanese island, at a shallow depth of just 10 kilometres, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) said. The Japan Meteorological Agency said no tsunami warning was in effect and the USGS said only weak shaking would have been felt on Honshu and the risk of damage was likely to be minor. Japan sits at the junction of four tectonic plates and experiences a number of relatively violent quakes every year. But rigid building codes and strict enforcement of them mean even strong tremors typically do little damage. A massive undersea quake that hit in March 2011 sent a tsunami crashing into Japan’s northeast coast, leaving more than 18,000 people dead or missing, and sending three reactors into meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant. It was the world’s worst atomic accident since Chernobyl in 1986. The company Tokyo Electric is trying to clean up and dismantle the reactors in a process expected to last decades.



Mexicans dig through collapsed buildings as earthquake kills 217


MEXICO CITY: Police, firefighters and ordinary Mexicans dug frantically through the rubble of collapsed schools, homes and apartment buildings early Wednesday, looking for survivors of Mexico’s deadliest earthquake in decades as the number of confirmed fatalities stood at 217. Adding poignancy and a touch of the surreal, Tuesday’s magnitude-7.1 quake struck on the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 earthquake that killed thousands. Just hours earlier, people around Mexico had held earthquake drills to mark the date. One of the most desperate rescue efforts was at a primary and secondary school in southern Mexico City, where a wing of the three-story building collapsed into a massive pancake of concrete slabs. Journalists saw rescuers pull at least two small bodies from the rubble, covered in sheets. Volunteer rescue worker Dr Pedro Serrano managed to crawl into the crevices of the tottering pile of rubble that had been Escuela Enrique Rebsamen. He made it into a classroom, but found all of its occupants dead. “We saw some chairs and wooden tables. The next thing we saw was a leg, and then we started to move rubble and we found a girl and two adults, a woman and a man,” he said. “We can hear small noises, but we don’t know if they’re coming from above or below, from the walls above (crumbling), or someone below calling for help”. A mix of neighborhood volunteers, police and firefighters used trained dogs and their bare hands to search through the school’s ruins. The crowd of anxious parents outside the gates shared reports that two families had received WhatsApp messages from girls trapped inside, but that could not be confirmed. Rescuers brought in wooden beams to shore up the fallen concrete slabs so they wouldn’t collapse further and crush whatever airspaces remained.


The federal Education Department reported late Tuesday that 25 bodies had been recovered from the school’s wreckage, all but four of them children. It was not clear whether those deaths were included in the overall death toll of 217 reported by the federal civil defense agency. Pena Nieto had earlier reported 22 bodies found and said 30 children and eight adults were reported missing. In a video message released late Tuesday, Pena Nieto urged people to be calm and said authorities were moving to provide help as 40 percent of Mexico City and 60 per cent of nearby Morelos state were without power. But, he said, “the priority at this moment is to keep rescuing people who are still trapped and to give medical attention to the injured people”. People across central Mexico already had rallied to help their neighbors as dozens of buildings tumbled into mounds of broken concrete. Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera said buildings fell at 44 sites in the capital alone as high-rises across the city swayed and twisted and hundreds of thousands of panicked people ran into the streets. The huge volunteer effort included people from all walks of life in Mexico City, where social classes seldom mix. Doctors, dentists and lawyers lined up alongside with construction workers and street sweepers, handing buckets of debris or chunks of concrete hand-to-hand down the line. Even Mexico City’s normally raucous motorcycle clubs swung into action, using motorcades to open lanes for emergency vehicles on avenues crammed with cars largely immobilized by street closures and malfunctioning stoplights. Dust-covered and exhausted from digging, 30-year-old Carlos Mendoza said two people were pulled alive from the ruins of a collapsed apartment building in the Roma Sur neighborhood during a three-hour period.


“When we saw this, we came to help,” he said, gesturing at the destruction. “This is ugly, very ugly”. Blocks away, Alma Gonzalez was in her fourth-floor apartment when the quake collapsed the ground floor of her building, leaving her no way out. She was terrified until her neighbors mounted a ladder on their roof and helped her slide out a side window. The official Twitter feed of civil defense agency head Luis Felipe Puente said 86 dead had been counted in Mexico City and 71 in Morelos state, which is just south of the capital. It said 43 were known dead in Puebla state, where the quake was centered. Twelve deaths were listed in the State of Mexico, which surrounds Mexico City on three sides, four in Guerrero state and one in Oaxaca. At the site of a collapsed apartment building in Mexico City, rescuers worked atop a three-story pile of rubble, forming a human chain that passed pieces of rubble across four city blocks to a site where they were dumped. Throughout the day, rescuers pulled dust-covered people, some barely conscious, some seriously injured, from about three dozen collapsed buildings. At one site, shopping carts commandeered from a nearby supermarket were used to carry water to the rescue site and take rubble away. As night fell, huge flood lights lit up the recovery sites, but workers and volunteers begged for headlamps. Where a six-story office building collapsed in Mexico City, sisters Cristina and Victoria Lopez Torres formed part of a human chain passing bottled water. “I think it’s human nature that drives everyone to come and help others,” Cristina Lopez said. “We are young. We didn’t live through’85. But we know that it’s important to come out into the streets to help,” said her sister Victoria. Ricardo Ibarra, 48, did live through the 1985 quake and said there hadn’t been anything like it since.


Wearing a bright orange vest and carrying a backpack with a sleeping bag strapped to it, he said he and his friends just wanted to help. “People are very sensitive because today was the 32nd anniversary of a tragedy,” he said. Buildings also collapsed in Morelos state, including the town hall and local church in Jojutla near the quake’s epicenter. A dozen people died in Jojutla. The town’s Institute Morelos secondary school partly collapsed, but school director Adelina Anzures said the earthquake drill held in the morning came in handy. “I told them that it was not a game, that we should be prepared,” Anzures said of the drill. When the quake came, she said, children and teachers rapidly filed out and nobody was hurt. The US Geological Survey said the magnitude 7.1 quake hit at 1:14 pm (2:14 p.m. EDT) and was centered near the Puebla state town of Raboso, 76 miles (123 kilometers) southeast of Mexico City. Much of Mexico City is built on former lakebed, and the soil can amplify the effects of earthquakes centered hundreds of miles away. The quake appeared to be unrelated to the magnitude 8.1 temblor that hit Sept 7 off Mexico’s southern coast and also was felt strongly in the capital. US Geological Survey seismologist Paul Earle noted the epicenters of the two quakes were 400 miles (650 kilometers) apart and said most aftershocks are within (60 miles) 100 kilometers.

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